Diary/Photo Journal

 Week of March 15, 2009

(Warning:  I recommend that you be drinking a cup o' tea or a pint while reading this page as it was a long, incredible, photo-filled week - enjoy!)

IRELAND!  Or what I like to call "AHHHRELAND"

With the exception of Sunday, this week was spent on the Emerald Isle, walking the paths of Leprechauns and Giants, traveling through the Stone Age and into the Modern Age and standing on the cliffs and rocks of history.  Unlike the United States wherein you can drive for hours before touching something of historical significance, you only have to take a few steps in Ireland and you are likely to trip over some monument, whether natural or man-made, that holds memories of an age past.

But first, a quick mention about our Sunday in Chester, England.  We spent this day with my cousins, Chris and Adrian, and we enjoyed every minute of our tour through the countryside.  Chester is considered one of the most beautiful cities in Britain and I can concur with that sentiment.  What makes this city so unique is that it is ringed by an almost continuous red sandstone wall that was built by the Romans almost 2,000 years ago. 

Adrian, Louise and Chris
in Chester, England

Old fashioned cell phone

Gerson dodging traffic

Romans built the red sandstone wall almost
2,000 years ago

The wishing steps - you make a wish, hold
your breath and if you can run up and down
the stairs in that breath, your wish will come true

Adrian, Chris, Gerson and Louise in a
nice little pub called the Albion Inn

Encased in this gi-normous (a word that I learned from Adrian) wall, is a collection of Victorian and Tudor buildings that keep your eyes wandering upward while your feet are propelling you forward (hence, tripping can be a common occurrence).  And, to top the wonders of the day off, we had glorious sunshine the entire day.

An old gate in the wall
around Chester

Fantastic gargoyle on a church
circa late 1700's

Various posts along
the wall

And again with the
short doors

We completed the wall circuit and the wealth of interesting architecture was seemingly endless.  People were also in abundance as the sunshine seemed to not only bring out the daffodils, but the locals as well.  

This building saw a bit of
direction change from the
River Dee

Chester Castle

Gerson and Louise enjoying
the daffodils in bloom

Chester has such charm

In the third picture, look at the
detail masonry work

Look closely between windows in
the fourth picture and see the
beautifully carved figures

Starting the week so nicely, we did not think it could get much better, but oh how it did!  First thing Monday morning, we were off too Holyhead, Wales, our jumping off point via ferry to Dublin, Ireland.

As we were to arrive in Dublin on the afternoon of the 16th of March, we knew that the city would be in the birthing stages of a rather raucous 24 hours (IE: St. Patrick's Day celebration) so we opted to spend a short stint in Dublin and whisk northward and away from the craziness (yes, we are getting old).

Our ferry ride from Holyhead, Wales
to Dublin, Ireland - just a tad windy

Homage to the sufferers of the
potato famine and the forced emigration

A nice building - all the color is the
natural brick.  Not bad after a few
hundred years

Christ Church Cathedral founded
in 1030 AD

Check out the cool gutter
system incorporated into the
design of the cathedral

We hastened around Dublin proper and visited the notable cathedrals, churches and castles and basically just took in the "feel" of Dublin.  I lost count of the many languages that I heard being spoken and watching the people was almost as interesting as looking at the architecture.

Dublin Castle has been
changed somewhat over the
last 750 years

St. Patrick's Cathedral

Street artist, literally
quite beautiful

Gerson mimicking the famous
Author, James Joyce

The Irish find their salvation
in their own, unique way

As we had many things that we wanted to see and do in Ireland, we soon made our way to Northern Ireland.  The island is separated into two countries:  Northern Ireland (a country within the United Kingdom) and the Republic of Ireland (separate country onto themselves).  Northern Ireland is on the British pound currency and the Republic of Ireland, or what many just refer to as 'Ireland", is on the Euro currency. 

We found a quaint little town called Slane to stay in for our jumping off point into Northern Ireland.  We stayed at this wonderful little Bed and Breakfast (B&B) and even though the owners said they were closed for the winter season, they recognized a business opportunity and happily welcomed us into their home. 

Our Bed and Breakfast inn near Slane, Northern Ireland.

The daffodils mark the emergence of Spring

Intriguing ruins and a centuries' old
bridge into Slane

Thatched homes are becoming
less and less common

Speed limit - 100 kph (or about
70 mph - yeah right)

We got an early start as we had a lengthy list of things we wanted to do.  Starting off just south of Slane, we toured Newgrange, a flattened, grass-covered mound that protects a fine Stone Age passage tomb and an extraordinary prehistoric site that dates from around 3200 BC.  This site predates the pyramids in Egypt by six centuries and it appears to have been built as a special burial place for important people. 

The tomb ceiling was constructed in such a way that it catches the winter solstice sun and illuminates the entire chamber.  Large boulders referred to as "kerbstones" hold the structure together and many are decorated with symbols and designs that represented something of importance to people from a time long ago. 

We silently crouched and crawled into the large manmade cavern and soaked in the realization that not a drop of water has leaked into this structure built over 5,000 years ago by people that only had stone tools with which to complete the work.

Swans grace the rivers and lakes

Newgrange tomb

Inside the passage tomb and the
unique triple spiral carving

Another tomb lies peacefully
unexcavated on a farmer's land

Gerson in front of the entrance

Various carved stones (these
stones are six feet or more in

From the south to the north, we ventured up to the "Hill of Slane" to visit a breathtaking ruin of a church and tower associated with St. Erc.  The area is known for its beautiful Celtic crosses and its intact tower.  As the roof and floor structures have long ago collapsed, the stone walls and stairs still provided the frame for the grand building that was once there.

The Hill of Slane -
a fantastic church
and graveyard with
numerous Celtic crosses
and fantastic ruins

Climbing a tower in
the Hill of Slane

Eerily intriguing ruins

After our solemn visit to the Hill of Slane, we continued northward with the intent to get to the Giant's Causeway before they closed.  However, a rather lengthy wrong turn kept us from our goal for that day and we settled for a romp along the cliff's edge near to the causeway coast.

Near the Giant's Causeway

Just having fun walking along
the cliffs

Gerson getting swallowed up
by the crevice

A wrong turn took us to the Caribbean

View along the coastline and
over the nearby landscape

Nice sunset over the North Coast
of Northern Ireland

We found a nice little B&B along the coast and settled in for the night.  While spending some quiet time in the pub downstairs, I was helped to organize my photos by a rather curious urchin named Oliver.

This adorable, pretentious five-year-old was all blonde hair, blue-eyed innocence that had me laughing at just about every comment he made.  Just a bundle of energy and curiosity, he kept me quite entertained.  However, that amusement eventually turned to shock when the following conversation emerged.  (Please keep in mind, the struggles and the "Troubles" that have plagued Northern Ireland are entrenched in the psyches of the previous generations).

While discussing girls and what would he do if they chased him and caught him (as he was so cute), he responded he would just "kick and hit them".  When I responded that you should not "kick and hit" anyone and especially not girls, he just casually said that he was learning to fight so he could kick and hit the "bad police".  I then asked why would he want to "kick and hit" the police and Oliver stated rather aggressively that the "police were bad" and that they "took the guns away" and that the "police should all get kicked and beaten up" because "they were all bad".

With Oliver's Father and what I assumed to be his Grandparents at the bar nearby, I tried to not show my astonishment too openly in either expression or voice.  I attempted to change the subject by asking what Oliver did in school and he stated matter-of-factly, "I don't need school to kick the police".  Fortunately, Oliver walked away to get something to drink and gave me a chance to restore my composure.

To hear such venom, such violent hatred coming from a five-year-old's mouth only reminded me of how influential we are to "our" children and how adult hatred and adult zealous opinions should remain within the adult community.  Oliver has no idea why he hates the police or why he would "kick and hit" girls, he just knows that that was acceptable behavior for (probably) a family member so therefore, it is acceptable for him.  How sad, how very, very sad.

Oliver, adorable and angry - the
problems in Ireland are deeply
entrenched and without thinking,
are being passed on to generations
that need to move beyond the hatred

Sunrise over Ballintoy

Walking along the Giant's Causeway
and the Northern Ireland coast

The third and fourth picture shows the Giant's Causeway "wall"

The Giant's Causeway - an enormously beautiful place, a huge spectacle of hexagonal pillars, a magnificent example of the wonders of geology, all confined to this northern coastal edge (and shared by the southern outlying islands of Scotland, just across the Channel).

The Giant's Causeway was formed 60 million years ago when molten basaltic lava flowed into the existing chalk beds.  The lava cooled and hardened from the top and bottom surfaces inward, thus contracting and creating a pattern of hexagonal cracks at right angles to the cooling surfaces.  Erosion eventually made its way into the lava flow and the basalt split along the contraction cracks, creating the fascinating hexagonal columns.

What a tremendous day in the
sunshine (albeit a tad chilly)

Walking along the trail above the
Giant's Causeway


Our trail downward to the
Giant's Causeway

You can see the hexagonal columns
and the actual "causeway"

Since I have explained to you the "scientific" reason (yawn) for the exceptional hexagonal structures seen along this "causeway", I will share with you the other, more colorful explanation for this seemingly supernatural compilation of stones.

Once upon a time, the Irish Giant, Finn MacCool, wanted to cross the sea so he could fight the Scottish giant Benandonner.  He built the Causeway across the body of water and when he stepped across and saw that his enemy was far bigger than he, he fled back to Ireland.  Soon thereafter, Finn's wife heard the angry Brenandonner come lumbering across the Causeway and being the clever woman that she was, devised a plan wherein she dressed her husband in a baby's shawl and bonnet and curled him up in a crib. 

When the Scottish giant met Mrs. MacCool, he was strongly told to not disturb her baby.  Upon realizing that if this huge baby was Finn MacCool's child, then MacCool himself must be enormous and the Scottish giant thundered back to Scotland, tearing up the Causeway as he went.  All that remains are its ends located at the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland and the coast of the island of Staffa in Scotland.

Now, isn't that a much better explanation!

Louise surrounded by Gorse
(the yellow flowered plant)

Gerson overlooking to the
formations called The Harp

Look at the color of the ocean
and the beauty of the coastline

This formation is called
The Organ (as you can easily
see why)

We spent a few hours and covered many kilometers along the Giant's Causeway and it seemed that there was some amazing view or geologic wonder at every turn.  The actual Causeway is a paradise playground as you just cannot resist leaping, jumping, hopping and skipping between the hexagonal pillars that spread out in all directions.  

The Giant's Causeway wall

Various views and
Gerson could not resist
skipping across the stones

More pillars

A petrified sock worn
by the Giant MacCool

Views from the walk
along the Causeway

If walking among the giants was not enough for the day, we decided to drink among them as well.  As we needed a bit of refreshment, we decided to visit the local whiskey distillery and take their tour on the making of Bushmills Whiskey. 

Bushmills is named for the village where the whiskey has been made since 1608 and at the end of the tour, we were able to taste a few different whiskeys, or should I say, Gerson got to drink my samples.  All in all, it was a terrific tour (and according to Gerson, very good whiskey).

Gerson making the best
of his (and my) Bushmills
Whiskey tour

Nearby to the Giant's Causeway and to
Bushmills is the Carrick-a-Rede Rope

Views along the walk to the Bridge

As though we had not done enough already, we made our way over to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge.  This "bridge" is a 20 meter (about 60 feet) long wire rope and wood strip bridge between the sea cliffs and the island, Carrick-a-Rede, and is about 30 meters (90 feet) above the crashing ocean below.  As the island has been a base for salmon fishing for the past 200 years, the fishermen would build this bridge every Spring and then would stretch their nets below to intercept the westward migrating salmon.

Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge - an amazing
day in the sunshine

The fishermen's outpost and lift, no longer
in use

Nesting seagulls in the cliffs near
the bridge

Believe it or not, at this point in the day we were only in the early afternoon and we had plenty of time for even more sightseeing fun.  We pointed our car westward and we headed over to Derry or Londonderry or Derry/Londonderry or...

There is a reason for the confusing name(s) of this city, and like much in Ireland, little sense can be made why there still is an issue.  Derry was the city's original "anglicised" name and in the 1600's when the Corporation of London infiltrated the city with Protestant settlers.  Hence they determined the city should then be called "Londonderry".  However, with the Irish being, well, "Irish", they refused the new name and continued to refer to their beloved town as "Derry".

Flash forward over 200 years later and the name of the city is still an issue between the differing factions within Ireland.  The "London" part of the name is often defaced on signs and referring to "Derry" infuriates London supporters (insert shaking head here).  So, in order to keep the peace in this part of the country that is seething with anger just below the fingernails, the city is referred to as 'Derry-stroke-Londonderry' or 'Derry/Londonderry'.  Unfortunately, a permanent change back to the more commonly used "Derry" can only be done by the Queen on the recommendation of the government (and that is about as likely as Ireland becoming one country again).

Some shaggy friends
(love the winter coats)

Just another one of those boring castles

The Dunluce Castle - 16th century
In 1639, the kitchen part of the
castle fell into the sea, taking many
servants with it

We drove along narrow roads through some gorgeous country that intercepted the coast and the green hills as we made our way to Derry.  As we did not have as much time as we would have liked, we decided to center on the historic area of Bogside (fortunately, they left that name alone).

Bogside contains famous murals painted by local artists that depict key events in the "Troubles", including the Battle of Bogside, Bloody Sunday and the 1981 hunger strike.  These illustrations are painted on the sides of multi-story buildings and one cannot walk past without being halted in mid-step at the sight of the telling images.

The most chilling mural is called "The Death of Innocence", which portrays the stunning figure of the 14-year-old schoolgirl, Annette McGavigan, the 100th victim of the Troubles, who was caught in the crossfire between the IRA and the British Army on September 6, 1971.  The description of the mural is also shown in my photos, and because I feel it is a must read, I will repeat it here:

Here the innocence of a child's world contrasts vividly with the chaotic violence with which others have surrounded her.  The mural commemorates fourteen year old Annette McGavigan who was shot by a British soldier in 1971, the 100th victim of the Troubles and one of the first children to be killed.  The little coloured stones at her feet are objects she was collecting for a school project.  The broken gun signals a call for an end to violence.  The butterfly and the crucifix are symbols of innocence and rebirth.  Annette stands for all the children who have died through violence during the Troubles.

Our challenge was to take such a heart-rending event as the brutal death of a young girl and make it a plea for peace and sanity.

Sometimes you are given the
opportunity to take a
picture that defies words...

These schoolgirls walking in
front of the "Innocence"
mural is one of those pictures

Derry is still percolating
their anger

Mural depiction of
Bloody Sunday and a
priest carrying the body of
John Duddy, 17 years old

Bloody Sunday occurred on January 30, 1972, when 20,000 civilians marched through Derry in protest against internment without trial.  History has clarified that British soldiers fired upon the unarmed crowd, killing fourteen people (some shot in the back).  At this time, none of the soldiers that fired the 108 bullets nor the officers in charge have been brought to trial or even disciplined and mysteriously, records have disappeared and weapons have been destroyed. 

From the somber site of Bogside, we walked the walls that surround the original city (much like Chester, although not as pretty as modern Irish architects leave a lot to be desired) and took some time to visit St. Columb's Cathedral.  Built around 1630, it is the oldest building to survive.

Some very old grave stones

It is rare to see the skull and
crossbones on a grave

The date on the second is 1639!


St. Columb's Cathedral - circa 1630

View down wall surrounding Derry

Daffodils are in bloom and provide
a colorful foreground for this pleasant

As we had just a bit of daylight left to enjoy, we pushed on westward and caught the last bit of sun over Grianan of Aileach, an amphitheatre-like stone fort thought to have been built over 2,000 years ago.  Gerson wandered around the parapet walls and I took in the marvelous views of the countryside.

With the sun setting, we thought it was a good time to finish our insightful day and we found a wonderful B&B in a quaint little town called Dunfanaghy (I will let you try and pronounce that one). 

Gerson enjoying his
walk around Grianan
of Aileach (fort)

and the views from
the fort's wall

Breakfast at The Willows

Our view out to the hills

View of Dunfanaghy

And low tide and a nice bay

With a typical full Irish breakfast devoured (cereal, toast, eggs, bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomato, beans, coffee, juice, milk and any combination thereof), we headed off for what was to be a short drive around "Horn Head" just outside of Dunfanaghy.  What we did not know was that this peninsula drive was so stunning that we ended up spending almost two hours tottering up the single track lanes and walking wind-blasted cliffs.

End of the World
We should have known we were
in uncharted territory when the
GPS does not register any of the

Horn Head views were breathtaking

The odd couple

There is a seemingly endless
supply of rocks for those walls

Views along the way

An abandoned "castle" on the

Once we extricated ourselves from the beauty of Horn Head, we found ourselves in equally wondrous landscape as we tooled down the west coast of the island, finding any excuse to divert to roads hugging the shoreline. 

A swan strikes a pose in a picturesque bay

Ruins of a castle long forgotten (it was common practice
for the old castles to be dismembered for their better
building stones and the blocks to reused elsewhere)

Look closely and you will see the walls go all the way
up and over the hills

Great scenery - green, green, green

Just more of the same...:-)

Even though this day was filled mostly with road meandering, we found the time flew by quickly.  We could not have asked for a better touring day as the sun was brilliantly exposing the countryside and as it was the end of winter, we had very little company on the roads.  We passed by cozy villages and of course, the occasional castle and quaint cottage. 

Donegal Castle - circa 1474

Another wrong turn and we ended
up in the Big Sur in California

Irish lawnmowers

Postcard villages abound in the countryside

Striking land formation

We decided to check out a small enclave outside of Sligo called Strandhill, that we heard was known for its year-round surf and we were not disappointed.  We rolled into this superb corner just at sunset and found the waters speckled with neoprened surfers.  As you will see by the pictures, the waves were respectable as were the surfers themselves.  Our B&B was not too shabby either.

Our B&B is falling to development

View from our window

Gerson's view

Surfers and sunsets - a winning
combination every time

Outside of Strandhill is an exceptional windswept mountaintop site that was sacred in prehistoric times.  Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Cemetery has been dated to the late Stone Age (around 3000 - 2000 BC) and is a series of relatively intact mounds and passage tombs.  Again, like the Newgate tomb, these tombs are still bone-dry inside (pun intended)..

In addition to being reminded of the Stone Age, we also visited another age, an age of great tragedy in the history of mankind: the great potato famine.  In the 1840's, the main sustenance (both nutritionally and financially) for the impoverished people was the potato and a devastating fungus devoured the great majority of the potato crop.  As a result, people were starved of food and money (as their source of income also shriveled up) and many were forced to emigrate with little or nothing with which to start their new lives.

Also, many of the emigrants that were either forced off their leased farmlands or left to find work elsewhere, died in route to their new homes and thus the potato famine exposed a chapter in human behavior that exemplified how ignorance, callousness and cruelty of one human to another can create a stamp in history that can never be erased.

Carrowkeel Passage Tomb Cemetery

I would say the dead did not mind
being squeezed in some of these tombs

Look closely at the third picture -
can you see Louise?

View from Carrowkeel

Inside a passage tomb

Strokestown Park House where
the famine museum is housed
(this was the estate of one of the
families that forced the emigration
of some 1000 famine victims, 600
of them to their death)

Gerson calls the last picture

Well, we obviously did not have enough death and tragedy as we were off to yet another ruin and graveyard that dates back to AD 548 (although most of the ruins are remnants from the 10th through 12th centuries).  The Clonmacnoise was one of Ireland's most important monastic cities and contains numerous churches, high crosses, towers and graves in astonishingly good condition.

Between the 7th and 12th centuries, monks from all over Europe came to study and pray at Clonmacnoise, hence Ireland becoming known as the 'land of saints and scholars'.

Clonmacnoise and its perilously
perched 13th century castle

Various photos of the ruins

Intricately carved high cross

View through the Cathedral and
a seemingly mirror image of a
high cross

Making the most of the sunshine (we are now on our third straight day without rain in Ireland and that is saying something), we kept moving along the coast and into the good-sized city of Galway.  Galway is known as a "walkable city" and it definitely is easily traveled by foot.  Having been around since the 1300's, Galway has a distinctive mesh of old and new architecture that somehow works and is very pleasing to the eye.

The terrific day brought out swarms of people along the streets and the river and the outdoor cafes were brimming with chatty customers.  We enjoyed our lunch in a quirky little Mexican restaurant and went for a leisurely stroll down the lanes and along the river.  As Galway was not to be our resting place for that evening, we ventured on in hopes of reaching a place called "The Burren". 

Galway was teeming with people
out enjoying the beautiful day

Where the river or outlet of the
Lough Corrib meets the ocean

And you wonder why we rely on our
GPS to find anything in Ireland

A long abandoned church being
engulfed by nature

Irish traffic jamb (and this was another
100 kph road)

As the weather and the traffic were both kind to us, we made it into The Burren, a west coast peninsula across the bay from Galway (the Galway Bay to be exact) just before the sun completely closed out our day.  In a way, the lack of lighting made the area a bit more compelling and our destination, the Cliffs of Moher, rather nerve wracking.

The Burren was so named for "Boireann" which means 'rocky place'.  Appropriately named as the area has a unique limestone landscape that was thrust upward and out of the sea during a long ago geological event.  A result of this fantastic geology are the Cliffs of Moher which stand proud to a height of over 200 meters (about 600 feet) out of the thrashing sea.  The Cliffs are entirely vertical and when walking along the edges of the rock formations, there was no margin for trekking error. 

To give you an idea about the abruptness and the vertigo-inducing capability of these cliffs, Gerson surprisingly got a little woozy when he stepped out onto the rock platform within feet of the edge and was watching me get even closer.  In all the time we have traveled and to all the places we have been, I have never seen Gerson waiver at anything, high or low, steep or flat.  When he told me that he was not feeling quite right and my seeing his face go a bit ashen, we both realized he was having a bit of a spell because of the sheerness and the height of the cliffs (and his concern over me :-)).  A few moments away from the edge and he was fine thereafter, but what an unexpected reaction!

Of course I continued to frolic near the edge and Gerson was good enough to capture a few of these moments on the camera.  I know it may seem embarrassing to Gerson that he got taken aback by the ferocity of the sheer walls; however, it just goes to show you how unnerving the lighting and the abruptness of these cliffs were at the time.  I was probably just too daft to realize it.

Views across the Cliffs of Moher

Louise tempting fate

Gerson overcame the initial vertigo
and was back living life on the edge
once again

OK, how many times do you
have an opportunity to do this!

Ocean fossils embedded in the cliff

Having thought we put the fearsome sights behind us, we did not count on the experience of driving the narrow road in the dark.  Soon after leaving the Cliffs of Moher, we were enthusiastically looking for a place to stay for the night.  With some of those roads, I would have preferred to sleep on the cliffs!

We managed to find a nice place to stay soon enough and with sunlight greeting us again in the morning (we are now going on four straight days), we were off to the mythical Blarney Castle. The Blarney Castle was built in the 15th century and is remarkable in and of itself by its construction and its situation atop a hill overlooking beautiful grounds.  But, that is not what attracts the throngs of visitors to the Blarney Castle, but rather it is the attraction to one particular stone that we were so enamored of, that we bent over backwards to kiss it. 

Yes, we kissed the Blarney Stone!

The custom of kissing the stone is a relatively newer one, dating back a little beyond 200 years.  The idea is that once you have kissed the Blarney Stone, you will be granted the gift of eloquence (or perhaps, the gift of pontification).  I told Gerson that I was kissing the stone so I could give some of that ability back (it did not work, I still talk as much as ever).  Here is the explanation of how the term "blarney" entered the English language:

Queen Elizabeth I is credited with introducing the word "blarney" to the English language.  Her emissary, Sir George Carew, was charged with persuading the MacCarthy chieftain (Lord Blarney) to abandon his ancient rights and to accept the authority of the English throne.  Every time he tried, he was met with long and eloquent protestations of loyalty and honeyed flattery of the Queen - but with no agreement. 

In frustration, Elizabeth exclaimed, "This is all Blarney, what he says he never means."  And a new word was born.

Views into the Blarney castle
Missing floors and ceilings

Winding staircase is narrow
for easier defence by one person

Gerson on his way to the

Gerson and Louise
kissing the Blarney

(like I needed to do this
to become, ahem, more

Another little tidbit about the stone is that it was thought that the stone was Jacob's Pillow, brought to Ireland by the Prophet Jeremiah.  Here it becomes the Lia Fail or 'Fatal Stone', used as an oracular throne of Irish kings - a kind of "Harry Potter sorting hat" for kings.  Legend says it was then removed to Scotland, where it served as the prophetic power of royal succession, the Stone of Destiny.

When Cormac MacCarthy sent four thousand men to support Robert the Bruce in his defeat of the English at Bannockburn in 1314, the Stone was split in half and half was sent to Blarney.  Some years later, a witch was saved from drowning revealed its powers to the MacCarthys.

Many levels to
this castle

Tight stairways
and slotted
windows for

Looking up at the
Blarney Castle and to the Stone (see the open
space at the top)

Watch tower and
where the staircase

We spent quite a bit of time at the Blarney Castle as it was quite a grand place.  We were fortunate to be there with only a few other visitors so we really had the opportunity to crawl around the nooks and crannies and to enjoy some of the vistas from the parapet. 

The Blarney Castle

Small window recesses let
in the much-needed natural

Louise in front of what was
the kitchen

Gerson off to the dungeons and a view
down to Gerson through the "murder
hole".  This would have been a defensive
spot to pour hot oil on the enemy.

Old and beautiful tree

And yes, even my admired Sir Winston Churchill kissed the stone!

After all this stone-kissing and eloquent conversation, we hurried northward to the Rock of Cashel.  The Rock of Cashel is a clutch of historical religious buildings that seem emerge from the rocky landscape that surrounds it.  Limestone outcroppings ring the site and it has existed for more than 1000 years.  And no, we never seem to tire from looking at these magnificent historical structures and their artistic treasures.

The Rock of Cashel and its Cathedral
(circa 13th century)

Some of the intricate carvings in
the walls and ceilings.

One thing to note, you don't usually
see the use of 'Pagan' symbols such
as the moon and the stars in a
Christian church. 

Fortunately, some of the interior artwork has been salvaged and is being protected and restored.  Quietly walking through this ruin leaves you with a sense of awe at how large the site truly is and how much was sacrificed to bring this religious stronghold about. 

View to the Hore Abbey
(circa 12th century)

No one alive knows who this
face belonged to

Restoring a fresco found within
the peeling plaster

Crows and a ruined
Cathedral, eerie

Notice the stone roof,
not slate, but stone

Ornate and beautiful

Hunger overtook us and we found a nice little lunch place down the road.  As we were on our fifth day of no rain (must be a record in Ireland), we were pushing to get to the east coast for the night.  Of course, we still intended to see just about every castle, tower, graveyard, etc. along the way. 

Isn't that a pretty lunch (steak
over mushroom)

Just another eye-catching ruin

I think this was the Cahir Castle

Another stunning church

Kilree Round Tower & High Cross
(circa 9th century)

The tower is about 30 meters
or 90 feet high

As we were leaving the Emerald Isle the next day, we sprinted our last leg across the southern hills of the Republic of Ireland and into Rosslare for the night.  As we have now gone nine days without rain, we are quite pleased with our trip thus far (or rather, we are over the moon and back again with our good fortune!).

Just one of our road view in Ireland A magnificent sunset to cap off a superlative week


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